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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Doctor who helped U.S. track down Osama Bin Laden could be put to death by Pakistan on charge of 'high treason'

A Pakistani doctor accused of running a vaccination programme for the CIA to help track down Osama Bin Laden should be put on trial for high treason, a government commission in Pakistan has said.
Such a charge carries the death penalty and is likely to infuriate U.S. officials, who are pushing for Dr Shakil Afridi's release.

He has been in the custody of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency since soon after the May 2 American raid that killed bin Laden.

Dr Shakeel AfridiTaken out: Terror chief Osama bin Laden was found by the U.S. with the help of Dr Shakil Afridi, who could hang 
Treason: Dr Shakeel Afridi, left, could hang for helping the U.S. find Osama Bin Laden by setting up a vaccination programme

The agency was humiliated and outraged by the covert American operation and is aggressively investigating the circumstances surrounding it.

Dr Afridi's fate is a complicating issue in relations between the CIA and the ISI that were strained to the breaking point by the Bin Laden raid.

U.S. and Pakistani officials have said Dr Arifdi ran a vaccination programme in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad where the Al Qaeda leader hid in an effort to obtain a DNA sample from him.
Dr Afridi was detained in the days after the U.S. operation. He has no lawyer.

A Pakistani government commission investigating the raid on bin Laden said in a statement that it was of the view that: 'a case of conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason' should be registered against Dr Afridi on the basis of the evidence it had gathered.

It did not elaborate.

The commission, which interviewed Dr Afridi and the head of the ISI, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha this week, has been tasked with investigating how bin Laden managed to hide in the army town of Abbottabad for up to five years, and the circumstances surrounding the U.S. operation.

Death scene: The compound where Bin Laden hid was found with the help of the doctor
Death scene: The compound where Bin Laden hid was found with the help of the doctor

Situation Room: President Barack Obama and his national security team watched events unfold together. They will be angered by the news
Situation Room: President Barack Obama and his national security team watched events unfold together. They will be angered by the news

It is headed by a Supreme Court justice, and its members include a retired general, a former diplomat, a former police chief and a civil servant.

It is unclear why the body would make this recommendation public, and whether it will lead to charges being filed against Dr Afridi.

The commission was formed amid intense international pressure for answers over how bin Laden was able to live undetected for so long in Abbottabad, an army town close to the capital.

Sceptics will say it is unlikely to achieve that goal, given the power of the ISI and the army, and may well end up a whitewash.

The vaccination ruse has been widely criticised by aid agencies, which have said it could harm legitimate immunisation programmes in Pakistan.

The vaccination team was reported to have gained access bin Laden's house in Abbottabad, but that it did not confirm bin Laden's presence there.

American authorities are trying to rescue the Pakistani doctor, his wife and children, and take them to the United States, according to Pakistani and US officials.

Pokok Sena and Pasir Salak having it out in Parliament

Errant policeman will face disciplinary committee

Police fires tear gas into the crowds at the Bersih 2.0 rally - file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — City police chief Datuk Mohamad Salleh pledged today that action would be taken against the police corporal responsible for the tear gas incident at the Tung Shin Hospital during the Bersih 2.0 rally.

In a report made public on Tuesday, the Health Ministry had ascertained that the policeman acted in an unethical manner and breached standard operation procedures (SOP) when dispersing demonstrators who gathered to call for free and fair elections on July 9.

The report prompted a statement from the Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Mahmood Adam that the policeman would be referred to the police disciplinary committee.

“He is still performing his duties as a policeman for now as we have yet to record his statement over the matter,” Mohamad said today. Police had absolved themselves of any wrongdoing during the July 9 rally after setting up six internal teams to investigate claims of police brutality that followed after nearly 1,700 were arrested, scores injured and an ex-soldier died during chaotic scenes in the capital.

But Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai ordered a second probe into the Tung Shin incident on July 14 after a group of medical consultants had written to the media refuting the hospital board and police who claimed that no gas canisters or water cannons were fired into the hospital.

The DAP then accused the authorities of sweeping the incident under the rug as its eye-witnesses were told by the Health Ministry in August to join “the police in building an investigation report that will be held soon.”

Police finally admitted on July 21 that Tung Shin was hit with tear gas canisters and water cannons during the rally, but denied shooting directly into the compound.

But this claim flies in the face of various video clips uploaded on the YouTube video-sharing site showing water cannons and tear gas being fired into the hospital.

Budget 2012: Nothing for Sabah

Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee says Sabah is being treated as the poor cousin because Barisan Nasional is so confident that its 'fixed deposit' state will deliver again.

KOTA KINABALU: Former chief minister, Yong Teck Lee, said he is disappointed with the 2012 budget as once again Sabah is being treated as the poor cousin.

He said Sabah is considered the poorest state in Malaysia but Najib’s budget is only pandering to sectors where Barisan Nasional is likely to get votes.

The leader of the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) said it was clear that the RM232.8 billion budget is solely aimed at pleasing civil servants, teachers, Felda settlers, military and police personnel and the Indian community ahead of snap general elections.

“These are the voting groups that the BN is now trying to improve upon compared to the results of the last general elections in 2008,” he said.

Yong noted that missing from the budget was allocation for the 300MW natural gas-powered electricity generation plant in Lahad Datu to power-up the electricity-starved east coast of the state. The plant was supposed to replace the cancelled coal-fired plant.

Another disappointment for Sabah is the silence on plans to upgrade the Sandakan airport to international standards as promised by the Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman last year.

“The proposed Sandakan airport upgrading is now confirmed to be another empty promise of the BN government,” said Yong adding that in the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015), there was no mention of such plans for Sandakan and Sabahans had expected the 2012 budget to address this.

The business community in the state will also be disappointed that the Prime Minister made no mention of any review of the cabotage policy that has been blamed for the higher prices of goods in Sabah compared to the peninsula.

“The cabotage policy to protect a few shipping companies will continue to plague the manufacturing sector in Sabah.

“The BN continues to ignore Sabah’s key concerns because Sabah is considered a ‘fixed deposit’ for the BN,” said Yong.

Yong also regretted that the new budget has missed out on the urgent need for a comprehensive manpower policy to tackle the over dependence on the two million foreign workers in the country, the wage structure and unemployment.

“The high expectations of the 2012 budget have turned into disappointments for Sabah.” he said .

Karpal to talk with Pakatan on tie-up with Hindraf

DAP national chairman Karpal Singh said he will speak with Pakatan top leaders on forging ties with Hindraf .

GEORGE TOWN: DAP national chairman Karpal Singh will talk to the Pakatan Rakyat top brass on possible electoral link-up with Hindraf Makkal Sakti – Human Righs Party alliance .

Hindraf-HRP have extended the olive branch to Pakatan and wanted to forge working ties with Pakatan. Karpal said as a responsible and progressive political entity, the coalition would give a fair consideration to the proposal.

He did not rule out of an electoral tie-up with Hindraf-HRP if the alliance benefited Pakatan.

He acknowledged that civil rights movement Hindraf was the reason for the massive Indian vote swing in 2008 general election for Pakatan.

“In view of Hindraf-HRP extending the olive branch, I would surely talk to Pakatan top leaders about it.

“We will consider it in fair and just manner before deciding on it. If such cooperation proved to be useful to Pakatan, why not,” Karpal told FMT here today.

Hindraf and its splinter group HRP are wooing Pakatan to forge an electoral alliance to face its common enemy – Umno-helmed Barisan Nasional – in the 13th general election.

Hindraf was the most influential factor that convinced the Indian voters to shift their traditional allegiance with BN in the last general election.

Many Pakatan candidates were then seen working hand-in-hand with Hindraf activists to secure votes.

The Indian swing contributed to Pakatan’s massive electoral gains at the expense of BN.

On Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M Manoharan, Karpal said that the national flag controversy may or may not affect his chances to stand again in the next election.

“The party would consider every aspect of a candidate before making a decision.

“If one is qualified to contest, he will be chosen,” indicated Karpal, dismissing internal claims that Manoharan was ‘finished’ as an assemblyman.

Last night, the DAP central executive committee (CEC) decided to set aside the six-month suspension imposed on Manoharan for making offensive remarks on the Malaysian flag in his social network Facebook account on Sept 16.

DAP lifts Manoharan’s suspension

The party's CEC said the Kota Alam Shah assemblyman had shown remorse by issuing a public apology over his offensive Facebook posting.

PETALING JAYA: The DAP leadership has decided to set aside its decision to suspend M Manoharan for talking about the national flag on his Facebook account.

On September 16, Manoharan, who is also Kota Alam Shah assemblyman,, had written on his Facebook saying that the Jalur Gemilang flag  should be modified claiming the national  flag resembled the Barisan Nasional coalition flag.

The DAP assemblyman went on to say that he had distributed the DAP flags instead of the national flag on Malaysia Day as he did not have the “heart” to wave the national flag.

Manoharan was subsequently slapped with a six months suspension on September 27 by the party’s disciplinary committee for his offensive remark.

In a statement today, its central executive committee (CEC) said Manoharan’s  suspension was lifted as he had shown remorse by issuing an apology for his remarks.

“And he had also deleted his Facebook statement,” reads the statement.

Meanwhile, the CEC upheld the party disciplinary committee’s decision to suspend a Johor DAP leader for abuse of power.

In September, the party disciplinary committee issued a similar suspension to its Bakri liaison committee deputy president Gwee Tiong Hiang for misusing his authority in managing party funds.

In an anonymous letter sent to FMT, a party member accused Gwee of misappropriating funds worth RM500,000 that was collected over the last four years.

“And now the liaison committee only has about RM3,000 in its account despite having nearly RM60,000 earlier this year,” said the party member.

Perkasa marah Namewee kebal undang-undang

"Namewee ini bebas buat apa sahaja selepas dimaafkan," kata Nurul Izham Anuar.

PETALING JAYA: Naib Ketua Wira Perkasa, Nurul Izham Anuar menggelar kerajaan sebagai `serigala hilang taring’ kerana takut bertindak ke atas Namewee yang kini menjadi pengarah filem Nasi Lemak 2.0.

“Namewee ini bebas buat apa sahaja selepas dimaafkan,” katanya.

Menurutnya, pandangan beliau itu bukan kerana Namewe seorang yang berketurunan Cina.

Beliau bertanya adakah Namewee dihukum atas kesalahannya mempersendakan lagu Negaraku dan azan?

“Jawabannya tidak. Namewee terus kebal, tiada tindakan diambil ke atas penghinan Negaraku sehingga kini.

“Mengapa dia begitu kebal,? tanya Nurul.

Namewee pernah mencetuskan kontroversi pada tahun 2009 apabila menyanyikan lagu Negarakuku ketika belajar di Taiwan.

Contoh buruk

Beliau berkata, pendirian Wira Perkasa mengenai perkara itu adalah jelas dan konsisten.

Katanya, Namewee adalah contoh yang buruk untuk diikuti oleh generasi baru dan kerajaan tidak seharusnya membiarkannya mempersendakan kerajaan dan rakyat.

Menuurtnya, Wira Perkasa sangat khuatir apa yang dilakukan Namewee iaitu dengan hanya memohon maaf maka sesuatu itu boleh dianggap selesai.

Nurul juga mendakwa, Namewee mendapat perhatian istimewa kerajaan dalam pelbagai isu.

“Apa yang hebatnya lelaki ini diberikan perhatian begitu? Kita juga tidak ralat sekiranya ramai lagi Namewee bakal lahir selepas ini,” tambahnya

Samseng bermotor serang ceramah Mat Sabu

(Gambar: Amer cedera dimuka terpaksa menerima tujuh jahitan)
(Harakah Daily) - Persatuan Anak Peneroka Felda Kebangsaan (Anak) kesal dengan insiden gangguan pada program anjurannya di Dataran Cikgu Mala, Tenang, malam tadi meskipun ianya mendapat permit.
Kemeriahan Program Pelancaran Kempen Mansuh Hutang Peneroka dan NGO baru di bawah Anak, Gerakan Kebangkitan Peneroka Felda (Bangkit) itu dicemari gangguan melampau sekumpulan remaja bermotosikal sehingga menyebabkan kecederaan di muka seorang anggota Jabatan Amal Johor.
Difahamkan, kira-kira 50 penunggang motosikal itu muncul secara-cara tiba dan berlegar-legar menganggu orang ramai yang hadir mendengar ceramah Timbalan Presiden PAS, Mohamad Sabu.

Mereka mengacukan rantai besi dan membaling objek keras ke arah orang ramai di kawasan ceramah.
Presiden Anak, Mazlan Aliman ketika dihubungi hari ini mempersoal sikap polis yang seakan-akan 'melepaskan' mereka membuat gangguan di tempat ceramah.
"Saya sangat dukacita dengan gangguan malam tadi dalam pada program itu dapat permit polis.

"Bagaimana polis menjalankan tugas sehingga kumpulan bermotor itu dapat masuk dengan senang sedangkan sekatan jalan raya diadakan," katanya yang juga Pengerusi Lajnah Tanah dan Pembangunan Wilayah PAS Pusat.
Ada dalang
Tanpa mengetahui motif gangguan, Mazlan yakin ada dalang di sebalik insiden tersebut.

"Saya yakin ianya dirancang dan kita boleh cari siapa dalangnya tapi saya serah kepada pihak polis untuk menyiasat," katanya.

Dua laporan polis dibuat iaitu oleh mangsa sendiri yang hanya ingin dikenali sebagai Amer, 29, dan satu laporan lagi daripada petugas Jabatan Amal yang lain kira-kira jam 1.40 pagi tadi.

Akibat serangan itu, Amer yang dikejarkan ke Hospital Segamat terpaksa menerima tujuh jahitan di bahagian muka.

Mazlan dalam pada itu meminta pihak yang tidak berpuas hati dengan pihaknya tampil berbincang, bukan membuat serangan sedemikian.

"Kalau nak buat bantahan atau nak serah apa-apa memorandum kepada kami, silakan sebab PAS bersikap terbuka.Jangan gunakna budak-budak buat kerja tak sihat begini," katanya.

Beberapa hari lalu, insiden serangan turut berlaku di program ceramah Mohamad Sabu di Rembau.

HRP claims Indians marginalised again

Human Rights Party(HRP) pro tem sec-gen P Uthayakumar say the budget would not do anything to change the lives of the poor Indians.

KUALA LUMPUR: Human Rights Party(HRP) pro tem sec-gen P Uthayakumar said Budget 2012 is merely old wine in new bottles and would hardly do anything to change for the lives of the ordinary Indian poor.

“Just like in any previous years. Look at the RM90 million for the orang asli, they only represent 0.1% of the nation’s population, but they’ve been allocated so much. The ground reality of the Indian poor should at least be given 1% total budget(RM2.328billion) for them to take part in mainstream development as they have been left so far back, and segregated,” he said.

Uthayakumar welcomed the move to remove road tax for individually owned taxis but said that all taxis should be individually owned.

“Currently taxis have to pay a company,why should permits be given to company, that should be done away with.” he said.

He also expressed disappointment with the legal aid allocation increase from RM10million to RM15million. “If we count the population of 28million, it works out to RM53.57 cents per head, which is not even enough to file a summons in court!”

“As usual, as in the previous budgets, there essentially is no delivery machenism to filter to the Indian poor. In 2009 when Najib was Deputy Prime Minister, he announced RM100million for Tamil schools , four or five months later a news report that said zero went down to the ordinary Indians because of price of materials had gone up.

” Where did the money go,” he asked.

Najib Dismisses Opposition's Unrealistic Label For Budget 2012

KUALA SELANGOR, Oct 8 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today dismissed the opposition labelling of Budget 2012 as unrealistic by saying they are just devoid of ammunition to attack the government.

He said the proposals in Budget 2012 which he tabled in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday can be implemented by the government and are not empty promises.

"The budget proposals were drawn up by experts in the Finance Ministry, Bank Negara, Economic Planning Unit and other agencies, and not by fools. They are brilliant people, with PhD.

"The budget is not aimed at pleasing the people; we do not deceive the people. Instead, it (the budget) is a commitment of the Barisan Nasional government," he said at a meet-the-people event at Ladang Tuan Mee in Ijok, here.

Najib spent about an hour with more than 3,000 people at the location and presented Deepavali and Aidiladha gifts to about 600 people.

Najib said the aim of Budget 2012 was to enable the government provide for the well-being of the people and prosperity of the nation.

He said the government had undertaken an in-depth study of what the people really needed.

"I have outlined in the 1Malaysia concept several pillars, one of which is that we must be inclusive, meaning that everyone regardless of ethnic group or location is taken care of by the government.

"In line with this, Budget 2012 has fulfilled the fundamental principle of, among other things, ensuring benefits for all groups of people," he said.

The prime minister said Budget 2012 had also focused on the Indian community whereby the government has provided a special allocation of RM50 million for basic facilities for the Indian community living in plantations.

Najib said that especially for Tuan Mee Estate, he had spoken with Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad CEO Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian and the latter had agreed to take immediate measures to provide clean and quality water to the estate.

He also said that prior to the tabling of the budget, he had asked all estate owners, both government-linked companies (GLCs) and private, to raise the wages of estate workers.

The prime minister said he was informed that many of the workers of Tuan Mee Estate had received a rise of RM200 in their monthly wage.

"I hope that in the near future, all estate workers will get a pay rise ... we will take care of the welfare of all workers," he said.

He also said that several grievances associated with bus services and floods raised by the Barisan Nasional coordinator for the Ijok state constituency, K. Partiban, would be attended to immediately.

"It was announced in Budget 2012 that households with a monthly income of RM3,000 and below will be given an assistance of RM500.

"This means that every family living in estates in the country will receive RM500 next year," he said.

Also present with Najib at the event were Selangor Umno Liaison Committee deputy chairman Datuk Seri Noh Omar, MIC president Datuk G. Palanivel, People's Progressive Party (PPP) president Datuk M. Kayveas and Selangor BN leaders.

Ani – Ghost City of 1001 Churches

Ani – some call it the City of 1001 Churches, others the City of Forty Gates.  Yet no one has called it home for more than three centuries.

Abandoned by its once prosperous and powerful inhabitants, it is situated on the Turkish side of a militarised zone between the border of Turkey and Armenia. 

The city of Ani is no stranger to death, destruction and desertion.

It is a ghost city today but once its Armenian inhabitants numbered close to 200 thousand.  In its heyday it was a metropolis which rivalled Constantinople, Cairo or Baghdad as a center of culture and enterprise.  Although it was never on traditional trade routes its sheer size and power commanded visits by merchants from all directions.  Yet what happened to reduce this once magnificent and regionally dominant city to virtually dust?

The city is the victim of a colossal and centuries old struggle for power between various factions in the region.  Founded in the fourth or fifth century AD the following millennium saw Armenians, Kurds, Georgians, Mongols and Turks struggle for and ascend to power in the city-state.

Almost each time a faction rose to power the city was ransacked almost to the point of obliteration.  Ani finally wheezed its metaphorical last breath by the middle of the eighteenth century, exhausted to extinction, as it were, by the constant struggle for supremacy over its dominion.

The city was originally Armenian and the territory on which it stands is still disputed between modern day Turkey and Armenia.  It was first mentioned in the annals of the Armenian Kamsarakan dynasty in the fifth century AD.  They were one of the seven great houses of Parthia and their origins went back to the Persian Arsacid – a major Iran based power.

The name of the city seems to have come from Ani-Kamakh, an Armenian fortress but was also known as Khnamk though historians do not really know why.  The best suggestion is that it comes from the Armenian for to take care of.  Certainly, the city was designed for just that – to protect and shelter its citizens. It is situated on a triangular plain.  At its height it must have been an extraordinarily visually striking sight for approaching visitors.  Chosen for its naturally defensive situation, to the east it is protected by a ravine and river, to the west a steep valley.

The early ninth century saw the decline of the Kamsarakans and they were replaced by another Armenian dynasty, the Bagratuni.  Their leaders referred to themselves as ishkhan or princes and they ruled over perhaps the most peaceful period of Ani’s history.  A pivotal point for the success of the city came in 992 when the head Bishops of the Armenian Church moved their sear to the thriving city state.  Its population doubled within a century, which while not remarkable in modern terms must have seemed like a golden age of growth for the Bagratuni.

A pair of quarrelling siblings would start Ani’s protracted but inexorable decline.  When King Gagik I died in 1020 neither of his sons would defer to the other and so the kingdom was split apart.  The older, Hovhannes Smbat took over Ani and the younger, Ashot, the rest of the Bagratuni principality.

Hovannes Smbat wanted and needed peace in his time so struck a deal which meant just that but would have terrible long term consequences for the city.  He knew that the neighboring Byzantine Empire regarded his lands with envious eyes and that slowly and surely they were drawing plans against him.  So he did something quite remarkable. To avoid invasion he promised his kingdom after his death to the Byzantine Emperor, Basil, and made him his heir.

When Hovannes Smbat died in 1041, Basil’s successor, Michael IV, obviously wanted what had been promised and claimed sovereignty.  The new King of Ani, Gagik II, was having none of this and managed to fight back no less than three armies sent to capture the city.  However, the still living Ashot was captured and although he had never been king of Ani, this final humiliation led to the surrender of the city.

So, in 1045 Ani became a Byzantine city, together with a Greek governor. It was now part of what people called The New Rome.  Not for too long, however.  The Seljuk Turks had other ideas for the city and in 1064 the army of their Sultan, Alp Arslan (aided by the Georgians under King Bagrat) laid siege to the city.

The blockade lasted three weeks.  As a more modern saying goes, we are as a society only nine meals away from anarchy so although three weeks may not seem a long time, the conditions within the city must have been horrific.  Worse was to come.  Once the city was captured, Sultan Alp Arslan ordered the complete and total slaughter of the population.

Yet that was not the end of Ani.  Many of the Armenian population had escaped the slaughter through fleeing before the siege and slowly and surely they returned.  The Sultan eventually became disinterested in the city and sold it, lock stock and barrel to a Muslin Kurdish dynasty known as the Shaddadids. The 1001 churches would be joined by mosques.

An uneasy peace settled between the overwhelmingly Christian and Armenian population and their new Muslim overlords.  Generally the Shaddaddis attempted through a process of conciliation and intermarriage with the Bagratid nobility (who were still around!) to keep that peace.  They had to – each time the population felt that they overstepped the mark in terms of governance they appealed to the neighboring (and Christian) kingdom of Georgia for help.

The Georgians were happy to oblige.  They invaded and held the city not once or twice but three times (1124, 61 and 71).  Each time they would chastise and punish the Shaddadids while eventually releasing power back to them.  It was not a happy time for the Armenian population.

Eventually the Georgians, under their legendary Queen Tamara, took final and decisive action in 1199.  They removed the Shaddadids permanently from power and gave governorship of the city to the Armenians.  These successors of the Bagratids formed a new dynasty, almost three hundred years before Columbus reached America, naming it after their General and founder, Zakare and calling themselves the Zakarids.

Wealth, trade and prosperity returned to the city.  Yet mayhem and massacre was only a generation away – from yet another new enemy.  In 1236 the Mongols captured Ani and put a large percentage of the population to the sword.  The Zakarids were allowed to continue to rule but as Mongol rather than Georgian vassals. It was here that the decline of the city started to gather momentum.

By the fourteenth century the city came under the control of a series of Turkish dynasties.  The Armenian bishopric left in 1441 and in 1571 the city came under the control of the Ottoman Empire which consistently neglected it. The small population that persisted for some time after was itself gone by 1750.

The city was ‘rediscovered’ by archaeologists during the next century.  Several excavations took place but further damage would be done after the First World War.  Turkey and Armenia continued to militarily fight over territory until 1921 when Ani, much to the chagrin of the Armenians, was contained within the borders of Turkey.

The neglect this valuable archaeological site suffered at the hands of the Turkish authorities can hardly be called benign.  In May 1921 the Turkish Assembly sent a message to the commander of their Eastern Front, authorizing that the "monuments of Ani be wiped off the face of the earth".

Although this did not happen completely, it is to Turkey’s shame the order was ever give and the following decades of neglect only add to that. The Global Heritage Fund, as recently as October of 2010 reported that Ani is "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and obliteration, citing inadequate management and looting as the main causes.

MIC thumbs up, NGO thumbs down

MIC leaders are full of praise for the Budget 2012, but a NGO leader says the Indian community has gotten 'peanuts'.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Budget 2012 evoked mixed reactions from MIC leaders and a NGO leader, with one lauding it and the other panning it.

Describing it as a “people’s budget”, MIC vice-president SK Devamany said it proved that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was concerned about the Indian community.

Under the Budget, the government allocated RM100 million for Tamil schools and another RM 100 million for Indian entrepreneurs under the Amanah Ikthiar Scheme.

“The allocation for Tamil schools clearly indicates that the premier is passionate about education and student development,” Devamany told FMT.

The deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Deparment added that the macro credit would also empower the Indian community and help usher it into the economic mainstream.

Apart from this, he said the allocation for Karisma, which provided assistance to the poor, senior citizens, children and disabled people as well as the abolishment of school fees would also benefit the community.

“The budget is truly based on the 1Malaysia concept where all regardless of race are taken into account,” he said.

MIC secretary general S Murugesan also praised the Budget, unveiled by Najib in the Dewan Rakyat this evening.

“With the budget, the nation will continue to increase in terms of economic and social developments,” he told FMT.

He added that it was a proper budget, which came about in a timely manner due to the increase in living cost.

‘We are given peanuts’

However, Malaysian Indian Progressive Association (MIPAS) president A Rajaretnam was disappointed, claiming that Najib had given “peanuts” to the community.

“We representing over 200 Indian-based NGOs requested Najib to provide at least RM2 billion to cater for the needs of the Indian community,” he said, adding that only 10% of this was allocated.

“What can the community do with RM200 million?” he asked.

Furthermore, he pointed out that MIC president G Palanivel himself had requested Najib to allocate RM5billion.

“It seems like Najib has once again played out the community,” he said.

By Azmi Sharom, The Star
My problem with religion-based law making, is the idea that it cannot be questioned because it is divine in origin. In a democracy, if we can’t question the laws that affect our lives, then it is not a democracy at all.

POOR Fulham. Despite thoroughly thrashing Tony Fernandes’ Queens Park Rangers 6-0, all the sports headlines were about the other London derby where Tottenham Hotspur edged Arsenal 2-1. I suppose it is all about perception; just what is important and what is not.

As much as I would like to think that the game at White Hart Lane is an indication that the power in North London has shifted to Seven Sisters road, I am ever cautious and am reminded of the saying that a swallow does not a summer make.

Although I suppose in the case of the Spurs-Arsenal rivalry, considering that we have beaten them three times in the last four league clashes, it just may be there is more than one swallow fluttering about.
However, I digress. My earlier point remains and that is the perception of what is important and what is not.

At the moment, there are all sorts of news stories floating about and they point towards one thing, elections.

PAS has once again raised the hudud issue. Frankly, I am not too worried about this matter.

Pakatan Rakyat has stated that they will not go on with hudud unless all the component parties agree.
This seems highly unlikely as DAP will never agree and I am sure there are some voices in Keadilan too who will not be comfortable with hudud.

However, if they do try to introduce it, I will most certainly object.

The reason why I object is encapsulated in Hadi’s (PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang) statement in the press on the matter (if it was accurately reported) where he said that hudud cannot be questioned.

Whoa there, “cannot be questioned”? I am sorry, if you have personal beliefs that affect only you and you won’t question them, that’s all fine and dandy.

But if you are going to introduce something into the public sphere, something that will affect the lives of the citizens, I don’t care if the source of what you are introducing is divine, it jolly well better be questioned.

And I don’t care if you say I have no degree from Al-Azhar and no goatee to go along with it, I will question any law that any government wants to introduce.

This has been my problem with any religion-based law making, the idea that simply because it is divine in origin means it can’t be questioned. In a democracy, if we can’t question the laws that affect our lives, then it is not a democracy at all.

And then there is poor Mat Sabu; charged with criminal defamation for questioning the heroism of the policemen who fought at Bukit Kepong.

I checked the Penal Code and sure enough, criminal defamation can be committed against the dead.

It’s a bit weird because how far back does this provision extend? I mean in historical matters there will always be different perspectives and differing opinions based on new findings and discoveries.

In case the Government decides to charge me with criminal defamation for questioning the character of one of our early leaders, let me use an American example.
Thomas Jefferson; renaissance man who helped draft the American Constitution and ensured a modern democracy where all men were created equal, or a shameless hypocrite slave owner who fathered numerous children with his female slaves?
Both views are correct and depending on your own take on history the view that will take precedence will differ.
And surely that was what Mat Sabu’s statement was; his take on history.

Was it insensitive, probably, should he be prosecuted for it, I don’t think so.

However, all these issues are really not that important to me. I think they are just the usual sound and fury that come with politicians posturing in the light that elections are coming.

The real important story for now should be the Budget and more importantly the alternative budget that the Pakatan has unveiled.

It is really good to see Pakatan acting like they have a Shadow Cabinet (although they don’t have one really).

We need to see concrete counter proposals from the opposition to not only help us question the Government’s Budget but also to assess the alternatives which a different government could give. This is vital in a mature democracy.

I certainly hope that discussions in the next couple of weeks will be about comparing the two budgets for surely that is more important than a hudud law which is unlikely to be implemented and Mat Sabu’s supposed lack of patriotism.

Miss Universe Goes Sideways in Indonesia

No jilbab for me, thanks.
Religion, corruption and money mar a publicity tour
What should have been a routine publicity tour in Indonesia for a newly crowned international beauty has turned into a series of gaffes that underscores two nagging issues in the country: religion and corruption.

In town for a week of publicity events to culminate in the crowning of the next Miss Indonesia tonight, Angolan lovely Leila Lopes, the new Miss Universe, was offered Rp750 million (US$84,000) to attend a police event in Bandung, the anniversary of the West Java Branch of the Association of the Wives of the National Police, supposedly an event held for charity.

When the size of the appearance fee became public, it raised a furor, with the Internet exploding with questions over where that amount of money was coming from. Police critic Bambang Widodo Umar demanded that the national police chief summon the West Java chief for questioning.

“The money would be better used to help low-ranking police officers or help their children go to school,” Umar told a local television station. That in turn kicked off a controversy in local papers, with readers saying local police make lots of money demanding bribes for everything they do.

Although police said the money was raised partly through contributions from local police officials, one of the organizers of the event said no money had been raised from the police.

The trip to Bandung itself was suddenly called off when local leaders of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, said that woman who has risen to fame – and fortune, judging by the size of the appearance fee by displaying her body on stage was not fit to attend a charity event.

It must be a little dizzying for the Angola-born Lopes, who until last month was a business management student in the UK before winning the right to represent her country in the Miss Universe pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sept. 12. The stunning 5 foot 10-1/2 inch beauty has thus been given a full dose of Indonesia's often-baffling politics.

Corruption is so rampant in the country – and the public is so fed up with it to judge by recent polls that show respect for political leaders and police at an all time low – that the idea of police spouses tossing around tens of thousands of dollars on a beauty queen made a pretty tempting target.

As for the morality police, Indonesia sends its own scantily clad beauties to the contest, much to the chagrin of strait-laced clerics who would rather turn the normally moderate country into something resembling Saudi Arabia. A year ago, a band of Islamic clerics denounced the 2010 Miss Indonesia, Qori Sandioriva, who was first crowned Miss Aceh, for “bringing shame” to the conservative semi-autonomous province by abandoning its Muslim values on her way to winning the title.

Aceh, which enforces a controversial shariah code on its citizens, doesn’t allow swimsuit contests. The clerics vainly demanded that Sandioriva wear a jilbab, a Muslim headscarf, to the Miss Universe contest. The demand was ignored, as are most calls for freewheeling Indonesians to give up partying in a country that for all the noise of the clerics and many right-wing Islamists, is constitutionally and proudly secular. .

As to Lopes’ visit to the police association event, critics questioned not only why the women’s association had agreed to pay such an exorbitant fee but why the Angolan beauty queen had even been asked to appear. Police said her appearance was designed to “create a positive image for the national police,” leading bloggers to question what it was that a beauty queen could do to raise the image of the country’s corruption-riddled police force. If anything, one might think that associating with the Indonesian police might damage Miss Universe’s reputation.

Lopes later told a local television station she was calling off the trip. A spokesman for MUI said the process of judging women by their physical attributes was deeply offensive and damaging to women’s dignity, making Lopes an improper guest for a charity function.

He did say she could come to Bandung and go shopping in the city’s many factory outlets. “But if she only wants to shop at the factory outlets, please,” he was quoted as saying. “Even it will be better if she brings lots of money to shop here.”

He added that the council would have gladly seen the city welcome a Nobel Prize winner or world-class athlete, rather than a Miss Universe.

“There are [selection] sessions in which the [contestants] were only wearing bikinis. Even their height and breast size are measured. It is banned in Islam, while it is highly adored in the process as if they have a high degree of value,” said Rafani Akhyar, general secretary of the council.

“This is the difference between Islamic and secular states,” he said, conveniently forgetting that Indonesia is not an Islamic state despite its Muslim-majority population.

Masruchah, the deputy chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, said the MUI had more substantial issues it could address.

“This is just man’s way to politicize the issue using the name of religion,” she said. “Even with women wearing fully covered outfits and veils, if the man has a nasty mind, it won’t make a difference. Fix the mind, not the women.”

(With reporting from the Jakarta Globe)

Najib goes after voters with fistfuls of cash in populist elections Budget

Najib goes after voters with fistfuls of cash in populist elections BudgetUPDATE 6 As expected, Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled a Budget 2012 stashed with cash goodies aimed to lure voters back to the BN fold, but it was immediately shot down not just by opposition but also by financial experts who gawked at his overly rosy economic projections.
In Budget 2012, Najib forecast GDP growth of 5 to 6% while the deficit was to drop to 4.7% from a projected 5.4% in 2011.
“That’s a pretty bullish outlook relative to the street and relative to ourselves as well. We’re looking at 4 per cent this year and 4.2 per cent next year. Second-half growth has to turn up to 5.5 per cent to average even 5 per cent. So that looks a bit optimistic from my view,” Hak Bin Chua from Merrill Lynch Bank of America told Reuters.
Faking it with overblown growth projections, no details on where money to come from

But Najib, who is also Finance minister, may have no choice. If he did not 'fake' his projections, there may not be enough to finance the plans he unveiled. There were no details as to where the money would come from other than the plucked-from-the-air increase in GDP growth that was noted and panned by banking and financial experts.
"Perhaps the most worrying is that Malaysians are like the proverbial frog in the hot soup, where the frog does not realise the soup is slowly but surely reaching the boiling point," Tony Pua, the DAP MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, said in an immediate reaction.
"We may not yet be facing the crisis of Greek proportions, but Budget 2012 is doing very little to avert such eventuality, leaving the Malaysian economy nakedly exposed to the inevitability."
Buttering up Felda settlers and the civil service
On Friday, the scandal-tained 58-year-old Najib presented a RM232 billion budget, with RM181.6bil for management and RM51.2bil for development. He also announced the much-anticipated listing of Felda Global Ventures, promising a 'windfall' for all settlers - who now number some 2 million in total, including their children and grandchildren. Obviously, the Felda folk will form  a crucial and core voting bloc for his Umno party.
There were no individual or corporate tax cuts as speculated, despite plans to launch an unpopular and hefty Goods and Services Tax or GST after the 13th General Election.
Najib also increased employers’ contribution for the Employees Provident Fund from 12% to 13% for those earning RM5,000 and below.This obviously is good for the employee but puts more money into the EPF, which has come under fire for questionable loans to government-linked firms and agencies, such as the recent and unannounced RM6billion loan to Felda.
He also announced an additional half-month salary bonus, with a minimum of RM500 for government pensioners, to be paid together with the December 2011 salary. So, for the whole of 2011, including previously declared bonuses, a total RM1,000 minimum has been announced for civil servants and government pensioners. This will benefit some 1.3 million civil servants, 618,000 pensioners and will cost the government RM4 billion.
“Najib has promised everything on earth but he doesn’t talk about increasing revenues or transparency. It is unrealistic. It is clearly an election ploy. In the last 10 years, growth, deficit and foreign investment figures have always been proven to be wrong,” Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim said in an immediate response to reporters.
Wooing back lower income group hit by subsidy cuts
For the lower-income groups, who have been upset at his slashing of subsidies for consumer essentials including petrol, cooking gas and sugar, rather than touch the RM19 billion gas subsidies given to crony-Independent Power Producers, Najib unabashedly courted them fistfuls of cash.
He announced a one-off RM500 cash assistance for households earning 3,000 per month and below, which will set the government back RM1.8 billion to benefit 3.4 milliion households, a one-off RM100 schooling assistance for primary and secondary school students from age 6 to 16, up to Form 5, which will cost taxpayers RM530 million, and a one-off RM200 book vouchers for students of private and public tertiary institution for Form 6 students, costing RM260 million.
EPF would also be allowed to ring fence RM1,300 from Account 2 of contributors for the purpose of pilgrimage to Mecca. The money will stay with the contributors, while they register for the Haj, which can a very long waiting list.
"It is very simple to tell whether or not it is an election ploy - just look at the number of one-off cash assistance. Najib is looking to buy GE-13 but my feeling is Malaysians are smarter. They should take the money, which actually comes from the tax that they or their parents pay, and then make sure the BN is booted out once and for all before they bankrupt Malaysia," PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
Main projects in 2012
Total revenue for 2012 was forecast to increase 1.9% to RM186.9bil and the deficit to decrease to 4.7% of GDP from 5.4% in 2011. Najib also set aside RM29.8bil for investment in infrastructure, industrial and rural development and RM13.6bil for the social sector, including education and training, welfare, housing and community development.
The PM, who had to put on hold his New Economic Model after heated protest from hardliners in his Umno party, also announced plans to "focus on accelerating investment and further liberalise 17 services sub-sectors, in places enabling 100% foreign equity." However, given that he did not immediately detail the sectors, these are expected to be non-critical and little-demanded sectors.
Among main projects to be implemented in 2012 are the East Coast from Jabor to Terengganu and road upgrades from Kota Marudu to Ranau. RM18bil of the RM20bil PPP Facilitation Fund will be used for high impact projects, with RM2 billion for bumiputera entrepreneurs. The government will also allocate RM978mil to accelerate the development in five regional corridors namely, Coastal Highway JB-Nusa Jaya,Taiping Heritage tourism project, Besut agropolitan project, Lahad Datu palm oil cluster project and water supply in Samalaju.
The Treasury Management Centre will be established and offer incentives to develop M'sia as a competitive financial centre. The Kuala Lumpur International Financial District will also kick off, with incentives including income tax exemptions for firms.
Property tax up, school fees abiolished
Real property gains tax was also raised from 5% to 10% if sold within 2 years; if sold between 2-5 years, it would stay at 5%; if sold after 5 years, it would be zero. RPGT was set at a 5% flat rate for properties disposed of within five years of purchase since April 1, 2007.
All primary and secondary school fees were to be abolished beginning with 2012 school term. This will cost the government RM150 million. Education would be allocated RM50.2 billion, of which RM1.9 billion for all schools, including mission and vernacular schools, RM1 billion for upgrade of schools premises (RM500 million for SRK, RM100 million for SRJK (Chinese), RM100 mil SRJK (Tamil), RM10 million for mission schools, RM100 million for Sekolah Agama Bantuan, RM100 million to MRSM - Mara secondary schools).
For the rural sector, Felda again walked away with the biggest goodies. Najib promised a RM400 million upgrade of water supply system in Pahang, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.
He also set aside RM150 million for rural public transportation via SME bank for bus companies in low interest loans of 4% interest, and RM90 million for the Orang Asli for basic needs, including treated water and income generation, RM20 million for the community affected by Cameron Highlands landslide.
The civil service were not left out, with teachers receining the lion's share. Teachers will now get 'time-based pay rise schemes', so teachers can go up the ladder faster. Effectively, it was an annual pay rise from RM80 to RM320 according to grade, or up 7-13%.
Senior citizens won't have to pay outpatient fees at all government hospitals and clinics. 50% discount on LRT and monorail.